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Former pastor pleads guilty in child sex abuse case

James Daley (Buy photo)

Margaret Daley (Buy photo)

By Joe Beck

LURAY -- A former pastor in Luray and Shenandoah County has pleaded guilty to six counts in a child molestation case in Page County Circuit Court.

The plea agreement of James Richard Daley, 71, a pastor at the Lebanon Lutheran Church in Lebanon Church for several years in the 1980s, did not specify any sentencing recommendations but Daley could spend the rest of his life in prison. Page County Commonwealth's Attorney Kenneth Alger II said the five felony counts of indecent liberties with a child and one felony count of aggravated sexual battery to a child less than 13 years old carry a prison term of up to 45 years.

Daley's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Alger said in an interview Wednesday that he consulted with the victims and their families about the plea agreement, and all of them supported it.

Daley was initially charged with 12 counts of aggravated sexual battery to a child less than 13. Alger said the investigation involved several victims but the grand jury indictments pertained to only one.

"They were in agreement with it to avoid any court hearing," Alger said of the victims' reaction to the plea agreement.

Daley and his wife Margaret were arrested in mid-July after someone reported suspicions of child abuse to the Luray Police Department. James Daley has been held without bond in jail since then.

Daley was pastor at Beth Eden Lutheran Church in Luray at the time of his arrest. He and his wife operated a day care center out of their home, which served as a parsonage for one of several churches at which James Daley was a minister, according to authorities.

Investigators with the Page County Sheriff's Office said in court documents that James Daley admitted to allegations made by the victim during an interview on July 16. The court documents also state that investigators heard "numerous allegations of sexual abuse" during the investigation.

The town subsequently revoked the business license under which Margaret Daley operated the day care center.

Margaret Daley initially won acquittal on one charge against her that was linked to the case against her husband, but she was retried and convicted a few days ago in juvenile and domestic relations court on a new charge of failure to report a case of suspected child sexual abuse. She has appealed the case to Page County Circuit Court. Her conviction in juvenile and domestic relations court, if upheld, would require her to serve 10 days in jail out of a total sentence of 90 days.

The case against Margaret Daley also included a conviction on contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She is not appealing the latter conviction, which involves a fine of $500.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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